Pausing for tears: Kobe's memorial

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Alicia Keys playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”

“A piece of me died… a piece of you died,” said Michael Jordan.

All of Los Angeles and much of the world were watching the memorial service for Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna this morning.   The whole service is now available on YouTube from ESPN and others. 

Michael cried, Shaquille O’Neal cried. I cried at home watching.

The words “girl dad” are now a proud label, especially in homes like ours with three daughters, no sons.

“Wake up, grind, get better” was Kobe’s manta, said one speaker.

Kobe’s “fierce determination” was held up.

No mention was made of the wrongful death lawsuit Vanessa Bryant filed today.

Beyonce began the service, and both Jennifer Lopez and Ciara wore amazing Kobe-themed nail designs. 

Sabrina Ionescu speaking at Kobe’s service

Sabrina Ionescu spoke movingly of Kobe as her mentor and inspiration in playing for the Oregon Ducks.

“I wanted to be a part of the generation that changed basketball for Gigi and her teammates. Where being born female didn’t mean being born behind, where greatness wasn’t divided by gender.

“ ‘You have too much to give to stay silent.’ That’s what he said. That’s what he believed. That’s what he lived. Through Gigi, through me, through his investment in women’s basketball. That was his next great act, a girl dad.”
Sabrina Ionescu speaking
Sabrina is the NCAA all-time leader in career triple-doubles and the Pac-12 Conference all-time leader in assists.  She spoke about playing a game in Colorado a week after the helicopter crash. 
“…like I do before every game, I prayed. This time, I was thinking about Kobe and Gigi. His voice is still in my head, even if his body is not on this earth. And all I wanted was a sign that in some way he still heard me too.
“I looked off into the sky and there it was: a beautiful golden sunset, the boldest yellow, Lakers yellow, and further in the distance, a helicopter. There was my sign that he will forever be with me. I heard his voice in my head, the last line from one of his books, ‘Walk until the darkness is a memory, and you become the sun on the next traveler’s horizon.’

WNBA star Diana Taurasi, whom Kobe called “the white Mamba,” gave a moving speech about Kobe as a mentor for women in basketball and about Gianna Bryant, giving the filled Staples Center audience a brief moment to laugh.

“Her skill was undeniable at an early age. I mean, who has a turn-away fadeaway jumper at 11?” Taurasi asked. “LeBron barely got it today.”


Despite all the loving memories, there are other lessons Kobe taught us. 

  • Don’t get in helicopters if you don’t have to.  
  • Don’t fly in fog.
  • Don’t trust someone else–a pilot, a helicopter company–to make all the decisions about your safety. Look out for yourself.
  • Danger can come where you least expect it.
  • When in doubt, take the slow route.  Be late.  Or don’t go.
  • Saving an hour or two of time can mean the loss of years.

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